Sunbirds by Mirandi Riwoe – Our Review


Our Review…

In her most recent novel, Sunbirds, award winning Meanjin writer Mirandi Riwoe, immerses the reader in the landscape and fracturing society of Java, 1941. Singapore has fallen to the Japanese and it’s only a matter of time until they reach Java. Meanwhile, the Dutch of the hinterland cling to the last vestiges of colonialism, their sprawling tea plantations and mansions reliant on the labour of their Indonesian employees, who are treated barely better than servants.

Riwoe expertly portrays the growing tensions brought on not just by the threat of the Japanese, but by the burgeoning nationalism of the Javanese as they openly question the Dutch colonialist regime. The story centres on the Van Hoon family’s plantation and the relationships between their daughter Anna, their long-time housekeeper Diah, and Diah’s rebellious brother Sigit.  As their stories intertwine, class and ethnic boundaries are crossed with life-changing consequences.

Riwoe’s previous novel, Stone Sky Gold Mountain, won numerous awards, as did her short story collection, The Burnished Sun. Her writing in Sunbirds is equally as engaging, unfurling a narrative that manages to explore the personal and political without judgement.

Highly recommended.

Review by Mark @ Great Escape Books